Quick Review: THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow/Headline)

GaimanN-ViewFromTheCheapSeatsUSA must-read collection of essays

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics — from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories — observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman — offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

What to say about a collection of excellent and far-ranging essays? It would be easy to pick through many of my favourites, and quote Gaiman at length, but I’m not sure that would make for a very good/interesting review. So, I’ll keep this very short instead.

GaimanN-ViewFromTheCheapSeatsUKIf you have any interest in Gaiman’s thought-processes when it comes to art, creativity, books, popular culture, specific works… Then you will undoubtedly find something fascinating in The View From The Cheap Seats. It’s a substantial collection of essays and speech transcripts. There is some overlap between certain pieces, which I thought was interesting — giving us some insight into those authors and books that most influenced Gaiman, and also the issues that have been most important to him at certain points during his career.

At no point was it a slog to get through, but it works just as well as both a binge-read and a book to dip in-and-out of at your leisure.

Erudite, informed, passionate, and sometimes amusing. This is an excellent collection. Very highly recommended.

*

The View from the Cheap Seats is published on May 31st, 2016, in North America by William Morrow, and in the UK by Headline.

Interview with MICHAEL ALAN NELSON

NelsonMA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Michael Alan Nelson?

I grew up in a small farming community in northern Indiana. Lots of corn and woods and swamp, but not much else. However, we lived about ninety minutes from downtown Chicago, so my parents would make sure to get me into the city now and again to remind me there was a larger world out beyond the seemingly endless cornfields. It was actually a nice place to be. I got to experience that stereotypical “small town” life (for all its good and ills) and yet still be exposed to a large, diverse world beyond my back yard. I would spend a Saturday helping my dad cut down trees and split wood (we heated our home with a wood burning stove) and then head into the city on Sunday to visit Adler Planetarium or the Field Museum–though, to be honest, I much preferred the museums to splitting wood.

I was also a bit of a kid-of-all-cliques when I was growing up. I was always shy so people never paid much attention to me. That allowed me to occupy this odd space that floated between several different social strata. I was in theater, competed on the speech team, but I was also a varsity wrestler. Of course, sometimes I would skip practice to play Dungeons&Dragons. When I was supposed to be working on takedowns, I’d be in the bed of a pick-up truck parked in some random cornfield rolling for initiative. Needless to say, I didn’t have a very promising wrestling career. Continue reading

Trailer: Ant-Man

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWdKf3MneyI]

This looks… Fun. I’m still surprised that Marvel picked this one to make before a whole host of other, more “commercial” or “mainstream” heroes, but it does look like it’ll be fun and on the lighter side of Marvel Studio’s output. Which is no bad thing — some humour in amongst the bleak and gritty is a necessity.

Marvel STAR WARS Featurette

StarWars-01A-Art2

Here’s a mini-featurette on the recently-published STAR WARS #1, in which series writer Jason Aaron, editor Jordan D. White, and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talk about the creation of the new ongoing series:

[youtube http://youtu.be/H_Hiky7fT2s]

There were 69(!) variant covers for this issue (which is frankly insane). A good number of them are pretty cool (Skottie Young’s is great). Personally, I think I like the Midtown Comics exclusive the best:

StarWars-01-MidtownSpeaking of of Skottie Young, he’s produced three covers – for Princess Leia #1, Star Wars #1, and Darth Vader #1 – that can be stitched together into a single image (via MTV News):

StarWars-SkottieYoungCovers

Review: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BATMAN and THE JOKER (Bantam/Transworld)

WorldAccordingToBatman&Joker

BATMAN

Written by Daniel Wallace | Illustrated by Joel Gomez & Beth Sotelo

Experience the world through the eyes of the Dark Knight, as Batman shares the secrets of his relentless battle against the villains of Gotham City.

Filled with insight on everything from his tragic origin story to invaluable crime-fighting tips, this fully illustrated book sees the World’s Greatest Detective give budding heroes all the advice they need to take on villainy wherever they find it.

THE JOKER

Written by Matthew K. Manning | Illustrated by Joel Gomez & Beth Sotelo

Enter the Joker’s twisted world as the Clown Prince of Crime shares his deranged worldview, revealing his skewed perspective on everything from life in Arkham Asylum to battling Batman.

This series of short, heavily-illustrated guides to the worlds of comic heroes and villains is a lot of fun. They’re very quick reads, and serve as excellent introductions, one-stop reference books and curios for fans new and old. Each of the books has a number of extra inserts and removable items — such as Arkham Asylum note cards (the Joker’s is amusing), Robin’s facemask, Post-It Note annotations from Dr. Arkham in the Joker’s book. In the Batman book, you’ll read about his equipment and world (include explanations of the most notable/stranger items in the Batcave), very brief descriptions of the key villains in the Rogues Gallery. The Joker’s book is appropriately zanier and more twisted, with riotous colours and scribblings from the mind of the demented clown. It’s a fun pair of books. I think they’d work as great stocking-stuffers for the Batman fan in your family. Readers already familiar with the characters may prefer one of the graphic novels or collections, though.

***

Bantam Press/Transworld have also published The World According To Spider-Man (review) and Wolverine (review).